Health Wonk Review and Other Noteworthy News

February 27th, 2014 by Julie Ferguson

Check out the excellent Health Wonk Review, In like a Lion edition posted by David Harlow at HealthBlawg. It’s a robust issue with no shortage of Obamacare updates and opinions, along with other policy issues. Plus, he offers interesting trivia notes between postings – if you’ve ever wondered why February has only 28 days, here’s your chance to find out.
By the way, in addition to being a stellar, long-time healthcare blogger, David is also one of the prime movers behind another blog carnival, Health Care Social Media Review – so if you don’t get your fill of health care from the wonks, be sure to drop by the bi-weekly SMR.
Medical Marijuana – Now that 21 states have legalized medical marijuana and two states – Colorado and Washington – have legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, Darrell Brown of Sedgwick looks at marijuana and workers’ compensation. He reminds us that the drug it is still illegal in federal law, he looks to some case law on the matter and states Sedgwick’s policy. Plus, he also points us to the related whitepaper, Spotlight: How will medical marijuana laws impact workers’ compensation claims handling? (PDF)
Transparency – At Risk & Insurance, Roberto Ceniceros poses the question, How About a Flat Fee?. He notes: “More employers wanting predictability in the fees they pay workers’ comp third-party administrators are negotiating to pay a single, flat fee for bill-review services, sources tell me. The arrangements follow from criticisms some employers, their brokers and consultants have heaped on TPAs, saying traditional TPA charges for bill-review services obscure the ultimate cost of those services.”
Egregious conduct – At The Pump Handle, Celeste Monforton takes a principled stand: When employers are reckless with workers’ lives, they have no right to remain in business – and we’d have to agree. Part of being in business is being responsible to all your stakeholders. Monforton notes:

“Last week, Labor Secretary Tom Perez announced that OSHA has proposed penalties of $697,700 to Wire Mesh Sales. Eight of the violations were classified as “willful,” and OSHA recommends a $70,000 penalty for each. They relate to the employer’s failure to have an effective procedures in place to ensure that equipment is de-energized and pad-locked off. These “lockout/tagout” violations were found on other pieces of equipment in the Jacksonville plant.

A slew of other violations, more than 20, involve hazards related to electrical systems, respiratory protection, blocked passageways, cranes, and overhead slings. Noise exposures in the plant were extreme and well above the permissible level, repeat violations for the company. And one violation reflects the employer’s utter disrespect for the workforce: There was a “bathroom with a sink that had been clogged for months with maggots swimming in standing water.”

Trucking – Truckers take note: New Study Shows Significant Health Risks for Long-haul Drivers – “A new study from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) shows that long-haul drivers have significant health risks. Obesity tops the list at 70%, this is compared to 31% of other workers who are considered obese. Morbid obesity is also twice as high, 17% versus 7%. Exacerbating the issue is that over half of drivers are cigarette smokers.”
Yet More Healthcare – OK, for those of you who aren’t Obamacare aficianados, avert your eyes as we link to these items – we don’t want to be the cause of any utilization spikes due high blood pressure, we know we have a few readers who are passionate “non-fans.” A recent Insurance Journal talks about a study by the Insurance Research Council: How ACA Healthcare Law Could Affect P/C Insurance Costs and Claims. Meanwhile, we learn that Enrollment Reaches 4 Million and Joe Paduda offers thoughts on Exchange enrollment – the big picture. Wendell Potter discusses a study of the Massachusetts health law, which cited a reduction in financial stress, including personal bankruptcy reduction, fewer delinquencies, and improved credit scores.
Other noteworthy items